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Home » 'Cognitive Bias' » Directing Conversations, Censorship, and Propaganda

Directing Conversations, Censorship, and Propaganda

Amerikan Democracy

Amerikan Democracy (Photo credit: Saint Iscariot)

One of the books I read recently is the classic, Propaganda, by Edward Bernays. I don’t recall what post or website I was on that referred to it but I thought it worth the read. I wanted to explore the concept of liberty and how manipulation of information by the elite could be weaved into my next book (Olduvai 2: Exodus).

As the writeup on Amazon states about Bernays and his book: “A seminal and controversial figure in the history of political thought and public relations, Edward Bernays (1891–1995), pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion, which he famously dubbed “engineering of consent.” During World War I, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda apparatus that was mobilized to package, advertise and sell the war to the American people as one that would “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” The CPI would become the blueprint in which marketing strategies for future wars would be based upon. Bernays applied the techniques he had learned in the CPI and, incorporating some of the ideas of Walter Lipmann, became an outspoken proponent of propaganda as a tool for democratic and corporate manipulation of the population. His 1928 bombshell Propaganda lays out his eerily prescient vision for using propaganda to regiment the collective mind in a variety of areas, including government, politics, art, science and education. To read this book today is to frightfully comprehend what our contemporary institutions of government and business have become in regards to organized manipulation of the masses.”

On the advice of my marketing consultant for Olduvai, I have been more active in attempting to develop an ‘online personality and following.’ One of the ways I have been doing this is to comment on various news articles or opinion pieces that tie in to my book’s major themes (i.e. geopolitics, economy, energy, environment, liberty, etc.) via online comment sections of a limited number of media and theme-related websites, using my book cover as my avatar and adding my website address as a ‘signature’ at the bottom. It has proven to be remarkably effective in attracting readers to my website.

What I have noted is that a relatively small portion of my comments do not get past the ‘moderators’ at the two websites where I have done most of my posting, The Huffington Post: Canada (HPC) and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

When you sign up to participate in such online discussions, your comments must meet certain criteria (CBC’s policy here; HPC’s here). Some of the criteria are fairly specific and not really open to much debate as to what is acceptable and what is not. For example, you may add up to three external links to your post or use French if responding on Radio Canada’s site. Other criteria are open to some disagreement over what is acceptable and what is not. Comments may not be threatening, harrassing, or sexually explicit. Some, however, are open to such broad interpretation that almost any comment could be deemed to be in violation. You may not make repetitive comments, for example. But what defines repetitive? If you interpret the world through a particular lens, for example Christainity, you will very likely bring the concept of God or Christ into your comments. Or, as I tend to do now, your global schema may consider the concepts of exponential growth and energy depletion as fundamental to how you view events. Regardless, my point is that the latitude that is given to moderators allows for personal biases and interpretations to direct the online discussion of many of these websites. I have found that CBC ‘disables’ my comment but continues to show it via my personal profile. The Huffington Post simply ‘loses’ it in the internet ether somewhere, no online record of the comment is visible.

There appears to be at least a couple of different methods used by these corporations to steer conversations. The comment can be entirely ‘disallowed’ or it can be held in queue for an extended period of time while others get through and  then are posted far down the list, buried several pages in.

I also believe that some commentators are ‘blacklisted’ in the sense that their comments are not posted automatically but held up so that they may be moderated/censored more assiduously. I am certain that I am one of those whose comments have been flagged for greater scrutiny. I have sent communcation to both websites enquiring as to the process that is used, yet I have received no response to date (several weeks now).

The HPC’s flagging is quite interesting/humourous. For virtually every one of my posts, I get the message “Due to the potentially sensitive nature of this article, your comment may take longer to appear publicly.” It does not matter what the topic of the article is; apparently all articles have a ‘potentially sensitive nature’, even those in the sports section. Today (Jan. 30/14), I have been quite frustrated at not being able to challenge an article penned by Conrad Black in the HPC who argues that JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, has become a rich man due to his merit. I attempted to point out several instances of Mr. Dimon’s bank participating in market rigging, fraud, and corruption in order to boost their bottom line, but none of the posts got past the censors.

The conclusion I have reached is that these two sites  work to direct the online conversation, especially when certain assumptions are challenged. To be fair to CBC, often my comments are disabled due to me adding my signature (website address) to the bottom; when I resubmit without the website, the comment is usually posted. However, there is absoluetly no consistency here as many of my comments with my website address are posted. And, every once in a while one does not get posted regardless of the presence or not of my website address.

Bernays himself states the following in the book: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” [An interesting sidebar to Bernays is that he worked with the American government to control the narrative of at least one government coup organised by the CIA: Guatemala (1957), where he worked with E. Howard Hunt a CIA operative associated with both the Kennedy assassination (eerily similar to the Guatamalan assassination) and Watergate.]

As Alex Jones’s website, InfoWars.com, suggests, there is a war on for your mind, and the corporate media is a large part of the propaganda campaign waged by the elite. Challenging biases, prejudices, assumptions, facts, opinions, etc. is important if we are to better understand the world and its complex isues. Disallowing such challenges through censorship serves only the status quo. As Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed states in his introduction to Censored 2013: Dispatches From the Media Revolution, it is important “to uncover and showcase news stories, in the public interest, that have been ignored, misreported, or simply censored by the  so-called ‘mainstream,’ but more accurately, the corporate media.” It seems it will only be through independent media and bloggers that people will gain a broader perspective of world events and narratives. It will not be through the elite and their corporate media.

Why is this so? I defer to Murray Rothbard in his essay, Anatomy of the State: “…the State is that organization in society which
 attempts to maintain a monopoly of force and violence in a given territorial 
area….[it] provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of 
private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the 
lifeline of the parastic caste in society…[and] the majority must be 
persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise, and, at least, 
inevitable…ideological support being vital to the State, it must unceasingly 
try to impress the public with ‘legitimacy,’ to distinguish its activities from 
those of mere brigands.” (emphasis added)


  1. Interesting article on CBC’s website today (February 2, 2014) regarding their online commentary and how it is moderated:

  2. Secondary comment:
    It appears a lot of CBC readers are upset about the lack of commentary being ‘allowed’ . Read some of the comments attached to this story: http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/the-walking-dead-4-brain-blasting-thoughts-on-zombies-1.2527639

  3. Finally got a response from the Huffington Post.
    My question: No matter the article content, I am receiving the message “Due to the sensitive nature of this article…”. Could someone please inform me why my comments have been blacklisted in this manner?
    Response: Thank you for contacting us about this. When you see a message that the article may be sensitive, this does not have anything to do with your comment or your account. This just means that the article has been flagged as possibly having a sensitive nature and it may take longer for comments posted to appear.
    My response: I find your answer inadequate for three reasons. First, there are other comments that are ‘allowed’ while mine is waiting in queue; and, no, they are not caught in the queue as mine gets posted down the list when finally ‘approved’? Two, I have been able to post on the same article (before or after one caught in the queue) without receiving the message. Finally, I have received this message when commenting on mundane topics such as sports or entertainment. So, do you have an alternative explanation because the one you provided does not fit with my experience?

  4. An example of recent articles I’ve commented on (Huffington Post) that have been held in queue that apparently have nothing to do with my comment or account, but the article has been flagged as possibly having a “senstive nature”. You be the judge…

    1) Take charge of your aging (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/dr-jennifer-pearlman/women-aging_b_4760771.html)
    2) Canada Consumer Debt In 2014 Swells To $1.4 Trillion, But Canadians Can Afford It: Equifax (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/social/skbull44/canada-consumer-debt-2014_n_4758228_306932597.html?)
    3) Canada Budget Must Show Action With Little Money To Spend (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/09/canada-budget-2014_n_4756256.html)
    4) 7 Environmental Charities Face Canada Revenue Agency Audits (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/07/canada-revenue-audit-green-charities_n_4742151.html)
    5) Canada Must Act to Stop Child Marriages Now (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kirsty-duncan-/child-marriage_b_4747810.html?utm_hp_ref=tw)


    Reply from HP.

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your note about comments. While you may feel we have not published your comment, many times they have simply gone pending during a peak commenting time and do eventually get published.

    Even if your comment(s) were indeed not published, it is most likely they did not meet with our guidelines.

    Unfortunately since we see over a million comments a week, we cannot look into your specific request to give you a more detailed answer as to what happened.

    Thank you for your interest in the Huffington Post.

    My response:

    Thank you once again for responding to my inquiry. Unfortunately, you have not answered my question and it would appear your originial explanation (I quote you from that response: “When you see a message that the article may be sensitive, this does not have anything to do with your comment or your account. This just means that the article has been flagged as possibly having a sensitive nature and it may take longer for comments posted to appear.”) does not match my experience.

    I commented on an article in your olympic coverage that stated who Canada was playing in the men’s hockey quarter finals. My response (simply that the byline did not match the factual data in the article) received the message that it was being held due to the sensitive nature of the article. I find it very difficult to believe this is true; that this particular article would have been deemed sensitive in nature. If I were to guess, my IP address or name has been flagged, and my comments are periodically ‘checked’ prior to publication. All I ask is whether or not your ‘moderators’ perform this way? Your original answer suggests no, but my experience suggests yes. I’m simply seeking clarification.


    When Is RRSP Deadline? Contribution Cutoff Date For 2013 Almost Here
    The Huffington Post Canada | Posted: 02/26/2014 5:48 pm EST | Updated: 02/26/2014 5:59 pm EST

    FOLLOW: Personal Finance, Video, 2014 Rrsp Deadline, RRSP Contributions, RRSP, Rrsp Deadline, Rrsp Deadline 2014, Rrsp Last Minute, Rrsp March, Canada Business News
    The deadline to contribute to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is drawing near, and apparently quite a few Canadians are leaving their contributions to the last minute.

    Thirty-one per cent of eligible Canadians still planned on making a contribution before this year’s cutoff date, according to a poll conducted by Harris/Decima for CIBC from Feb. 13-17.

    This year’s RRSP deadline is March 3, now less than a week away.

    Out of that 31 per cent who still wanted to contribute so close to the deadline, just under half hadn’t made any contributions for that tax year, while the remainder had, but planned to contribute more.

    The poll showed those most likely to procrastinate on planned RRSP contributions were between the ages of 25 and 44. CIBC said previous research indicated younger Canadians often need to balance their savings with debt repayment, which can result in delaying contributions.

    A previous poll conducted in November 2013 for RBC said only 23 per cent of Canadians planned to contribute the maximum amount allowed. Younger Canadians are less likely to have the cash to make the maximum contribution, CBC noted, but just 20 per cent of people between the ages of 35 and 54 and 25 per cent of people over age 55 said they’d contribute the full amount.

    Senior Manager with RBC Financial Planning Richa Hingorani said putting money aside on a regular basis can help make the process more affordable.

    “Maxing out your contribution at the start of the year is great if you can afford it,” she said in a press release, “but for most Canadians, regular contributions throughout the year is a more realistic and effective approach.”

    Christina Kramer, CIBC’s Executive Vice President, Retail and Business Banking, also noted the benefit of saving throughout the year, rather than scrambling to find cash close to the cutoff.

    “Some Canadians find it difficult to come up with a lump sum for their RRSP, underscoring the importance of creating a budget and a regular savings plan for the year ahead to avoid the last-minute crunch,” she said in a news release.

    Cool Currency
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    Steve B. (skbull44)
    SUPER USER·74 Fans·Check out Olduvai the novel
    Come on, folks. HuffPost has been pushing this for weeks now. Get your hard-earned, printed-from-air fiat currency into that fraudulent fractional reserve banking system so the banking cartel can claim more assets and bigger bonuses. Doesn’t matter that you may never get it back when the banks fail, but hey, you’ll save on this year’s taxes…
    Due to the potentially sensitive nature of this article, your comment may take longer to appear publicly.
    There are no comments on this entry yet.
    Be the first!

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